My first exposure to Katatonia came more than three years ago and I am almost embarrassed to admit that it is also the last time I experienced their music. I hate to admit that because that initial exposure was such a positive experience. I should have picked up an album that night or at least shortly thereafter, but for some reason I never did. At least there is always time to rectify the mistakes of the past. At this point, Night is the New Day seems like an ideal place to begin.
If I could step back in time for just a moment, the first time I heard Katatonia's music was live. They were opening for Moonspell and it was their first show in the United States. Unfortunately, the venue was rather small and did not allow them the room necessary to really deliver their music, but they still played their hearts out and made an impression on me. Truly impressive.
Sadly, while the positive experience remains with me, my memory for the details has faded to such a dim glow that I could not tell you much in the way of specifics. However, there is a positive side to this as well. It means that listening to Night is the New Day is like listening to them for the first time and the album is quite an experience. Reminiscent of Opeth while retaining their own identity.
Night is the New Day is a gorgeous epic of lush arrangements and melancholy music. It is like the marriage of the previously mentioned Opeth (whose vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt, ironically, provided vocals for Katatonia's Brave Murder Day) and The Cure. There is a heavy dose of doom and gloom to the music that is actually more welcoming than it may initially seem.
Each of the eleven tracks adds something different to the tapestry that is the whole work. The sporadic de-tuned heaviness and melody of "Forsaker" to acoustic guitar driven balled of gloom "Idle Blood" to laid back doom grove of "The Promise of Deceit." All providing a new piece, different sides of the same band working towards the same goal. It is not exactly the experience I was expecting, but it may be just what I really wanted without knowing it.
Katatonia employs a different style than I am used to. They get away from the all too common loud/soft structure employed by so many bands (to great effect, I might add, I enjoy the style but sometimes it is nice to find a band that does something different while still being similar in genre). These songs have an organic feel to them, as if they were allowed to write themselves rather than have the band's will forced upon it. This allows for more natural sounding music whose elements flow together as one, rather than being squeezed into a template. Different songs bring about different textures as they breather and flow out of the instruments.
That may be a bit more existential sounding than I intend. For all I know these songs could be calculated down to the smallest of details, manipulated into being something different. I do not truly believe that to be the case, but you never know. Whatever the truth may be, this is a stunning album that plays well as a work of art and would seem to be a perfect addition to use in a meditative fashion. Its sound is open, expansive, and ready to be played in a calm room where the listener can choose to focus on the sound, allowing it to take the mind on a journey.
Bottomline. Not what I expected turned into exactly what I wanted. This is an album whose beauty lasts well after the final note has faded. This band has crafted something that is familiar yet new, a welcoming journey into doom and decay. Katatonia is a band with a vision and they want to share it with you. Will you join them for a while?